Introducing: Tour of Sound
What would a periodical be without some music reviews and suggestions? Since this is the inaugural article, here’s the rundown: I will discuss 10 songs that I’ve been listening to or that have recently come out, as well as the artists and albums that go along with those songs. Then I list five additional “Throwback” songs that I discuss. In addition, I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist with a few other songs by each artist.
1. “Change of Heart” — I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it — The 1975:
The 1975, most known for its 2013 release of the single “Chocolate,” released its second album earlier this year. The entire album is an improvement on their first album with a mixture of their classic slower sound of songs from their debut album like “Robbers” and a more upbeat feel, making The 1975 a much more dynamic and nuanced band. Not only would I recommend this song, but the entire album deserves a listen. This song invokes the feeling of closure after a breakup, and the rationalization process that comes afterward. Ultimately, it sometimes just comes down to a “Change of Heart.” It is not often that a band will release a music video that poignantly touches on the subject of the song without muddling it incessantly with shots of the band or the artist as if they were selling a brand to a viewer that just stumbled on the song or video. Lead vocalist, Matt Healy, depicts a lovesick clown in the video, embedded below.
Other suggestions: “Paris,” “UGH!,” “The Sound,” “If I Believe You”
2. “Greek Tragedy” — Glitterbug — The Wombats:
This song fulfills its title by leaving you heartbroken in the end and longing for more. The meaning, hidden under a plucky melody, is a bit more serious than the music suggests. In this instance, a relationship under strain that is bound to leave every party unhappy. The Wombats tend to do this masking in a lot of their songs by providing anthemic choruses that hide sordid and hedonistic lyrics. However, in Glitterbug, unlike their past albums, there is a sense that the band has made a turn toward more serious subject matters illustrated in “Give Me A Try.” The music video, again shown below, is another well-executed music video that illustrates the twisted undertone of the song while the upbeat melody masks the meaning to create the surprise at the end.
Other suggestions: “Give Me A Try,” “Emoticons,” “Tokyo — Vampires & Wolves”
3. “The One”— Coming Up for Air — Kodaline:
This soft rock ballad starts slow and crescendos into the typical passionate Kodaline song that becomes a whirlwind of melody. This band may frequently get mixed reviews for keeping the same “sound” over the course its two albums, however, songs like “Love Like This” hit upon a folk sound that refutes that criticism. Every song is filled with a genuine emotion coming forth from the lyrics that evoke a sense of vulnerability. Kodaline inherits the new soft rock feel from older Coldplay albums and The Fray. One of the biggest redeeming factors for those who dislike the supposed monotony among their songs is the fantastic music videos for nearly every song with one.
Other suggestions: “All I Want,” “Honest,” “Love Like This”
4. “I Am a Nightmare” — Single — Brand New:
Brand New has released its second single in the same number of years, coming back from a six-year hiatus. While “I Am a Nightmare” does bring a new sound to Brand New, it doesn’t quite measure up in terms of expectations to their old material. Their prototypical hard rock sound is frequently mixed with emotional lyrics, like “Do I have to die to see the other side?” from “I Am a Nightmare.” Brand New spent their formative years toeing the line between hard rock and punk and, as a result, created a niche sound. “I Am a Nightmare” is a good song with the same emotional lyrics, but doesn’t have quite the edgy sound that the Deja Entendu album had.
Other suggestions: “Jesus Christ,” “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades”
5. “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” — Back On Top — The Front Bottoms:
It’s hard to place a label on the genre of The Front Bottoms, and that’s part of what makes them so unique. They seem to weave between pop punk, acoustic folk, and indie rock. This particular song seems to fluctuate between those genres in a three-and-a-half-minute song — and as a bonus they pepper in some trumpet. The lyricism of The Front Bottoms is solid throughout their several albums. This band is fantastic live, mostly because their fans are so passionate and rowdy that a good dozen people can be crowd surfing in front of the stage at one time. This band comes highly recommended.
Other suggestion: “West Virginia,” “Flashlight,” “Twin Size Mattress”
6. “Make You Better” — What A Terrible World, What a Beautiful World — The Decemberists:
“Make You Better” starts off as a somber ideal of finding value in a particular relationship through making someone better. However, as the song builds, the singer comes to the realization that this is often futile. Often, I have gotten lost in the visceral feeling of every season listening to an album of The Decemberists. Some songs have a crisp feeling of autumn (“16 Military Wives”). Some have a solemn feel of winter, as this song does. Some of their songs use fresh acoustic melody that remind the listener of spring (“Down By The Water”). Some of their songs have an indie folk rock feel that reminds the listener of summer (“June Hymn”). I’ve tried to include one of each as a suggestion. The music video below features Nick Offerman, so of course I would include it here for you.
Other suggestions: “Down By The Water,” “June Hymn,” “16 Military Wives”
7. “All We Ever Knew” — Signs of Light — The Head and the Heart:
“All We Ever Knew” is not your typical The Head and the Heart song, and that’s exciting. The Head and the Heart have a never-ending vernal feeling that makes you feel a childish excitement throughout each album. The folk rock band has really made a niche audience for themselves that bridge between bands like Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes. Many of their songs start slow and build in tempo to leave you wanting more. But if “All We Ever Knew” is any indication, the band may be transitioning to more songs that are up-tempo throughout the whole composition. Both “Library Magic” and “All We Ever Know” are off of the yet-to-be-released album Signs of Light. I am excited to hear more off the album come September 9th.
Other suggestions: “Library Magic,” “Rivers and Roads,” “Let’s Be Still”
8. “Dark Necessities”— The Getaway — Red Hot Chili Peppers:
The Red Hot Chili Peppers seem timeless as they churn out their 11th (!) album since they were formed in 1983 (!). “Dark Necessities” and “The Getaway” off their new album are fantastic songs that perfectly encapsulate their unique funk rock and alternative rock sounds. They can fluctuate seamlessly between mellow and excited within the course of an album, but “Dark Necessities” exemplifies both of these qualities in a single song. As a whole, the album doesn’t quite match up to Stadium Arcadium and other early albums, but then again how could they with guitarist John Frusciante no longer with the band? Below is the music video for “Dark Necessities,” directed by Olivia Wilde, that screams of the modern southern California fandom that Red Hot Chili Peppers have captured and incorporated as their own.
Other suggestions: “The Getaway,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” “Can’t Stop”
9. “Sober” — California — Blink 182:
“California” was released in the same week as Pokémon Go and the band had songs on radios the world over as the game also went global. Talk about a late 90’s/early 2000’s throwback. But something was just missing for Blink 182 without guitarist and vocalist Tom Delonge in the mix. Despite his absence, the album was still good. “Sober” and “Bored to Death” both still have the punk rock lyricism of the old Blink 182, and the sound is almost there, but the song leans a bit more toward alternative rock. Here I thought the Red Hot Chili Peppers were going to be the band on this list representing southern California, but Blink’s new album is inundated with references to SoCal (the three song titles “Los Angeles,” “San Diego,” and “California” are pretty self-explanatory). But this makes sense since the pop punk rock scene began there with bands such as Blink, Green Day, and Bad Religion.
Other suggestions: “Bored to Death,” “First Date,” “Always”
10. “HandClap” — Fitz and the Tantrums — Fitz and the Tantrums:
I tried not to pick songs to write about that are super popular in an effort to try to diversify the music palates of whomever may read this, but come on. This is a total jam. Fitz and the Tantrums can turn any negative day around through song, especially this one. “HandClap” is one of those songs that can just bury its way into the recesses of your brain and you will not mind. Not to mention, Fitz and the Tantrums are excellent live performers who seem to be able to get even the indifferent people in the back tapping their foot, or in the case of this song, clapping their hands. Moreover, the synergy and undeniable chemistry between the two lead vocals is astounding, which is why I included their music video for this song. Their album is filled with excellent music that can move between indie pop and neo soul genres.
Other suggestions: “Burn It Down,” “Out of My League,” “Moneygrabber”
1. “Sidewalk When She Walks” — Watch Out — Alexisonfire (2004):
Hear me out on this one. This choice is atypical because it comes from a post-hardcore band from the 2000s. However, this is Dallas Green’s band — yes, before he went off and started City and Colour. Green is one of the guitarists and one of three lead vocals in the band . This song is probably the only one that features exclusively Green on vocals, which means it does not have any screaming, so I’ve spared you of that if that’s not your thing. Spotify did this weird thing where they had this album for as long as I’ve listened to Spotify (roughly 5 years), but decided to just pull it all of the sudden within the last 3 months. The funny thing is that they have all their other albums. Oh well, here’s a link to a YouTube video with the audio.
Other suggestions: “Boiled Frogs,” “Rough Hands,” “To A Friend,” “.44 Caliber Love Letter,” “Sharks and Danger” (None of these suggestions were added to our Spotify playlist to spare the delicate ears of some listeners)
2. “Everlong” — The Color And The Shape — Foo Fighters (1997):
This song is a classic staple of rock in the 90’s, or any other time for that matter, so of course I would include it in this list of suggestions. For those that don’t know or have been living under a rock for the past 25 years, Dave Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana before Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Later the same year, he formed the Foo Fighters as the lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and occasionally also playing the bass guitar and drums on a few albums. Since then, Foo Fighters has been churning out brilliant alternative rock music, placing them among the greats of the genre like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Also the music video for this song is pretty good with the drummer, Taylor Hawkins, putting his long hair to good use.
Other suggestions: “Learn to Fly,” “Best of You,” “My Hero”
3. “How’s It Gonna Be” — Third Eye Blind — Third Eye Blind (1997):
Third Eye Blind received a recent PR boost by trolling an audience at a charity event in Cleveland at the same time the Republican National Convention was taking place. They assumed many of the attendees would be coming from the convention — judging from the booing in the videos they were right — and framed their performance around LGBTQ equality and climate change. They refused to play any of their popular hits besides ‘Jumper’ which was written for a gay friend of the frontman, Stephan Jenkins, who committed suicide after being bullied. This band just has the sound of the prototypical 90’s alternative band and this song exemplifies it.
Other suggestions: “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Narcolepsy,” “Graduate”
4. “Fire of Unknown Origin” — Fire of Unknown Origin — Blue Öyster Cult (1981):
Blue Öyster Cult is not a super well-known 70's/80's rock band — they’re probably more recently known for the SNL “More Cowbell” spoof of the song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” featuring Christopher Walken, Will Ferrell, and Jimmy Fallon, among others. But this band is a case study in the evolution of hard rock during that period. Early Blue Öyster Cult, with songs like “Cities On Flame with Rock and Roll,” was quintessentially 70’s hard rock while the album Fire of Unknown Origin demonstrates the evolution of the genre to a popular 80’s sound more reliant on keyboards and synthesizers. This song opens up the album and sets the upbeat hard rock tone for the rest of the album.
Other suggestions: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Burnin’ For You,” “Cities On Flame with Rock and Roll”
5. “Travelling Riverside Blues” — Single — Led Zeppelin (1982):
Led Zeppelin covered this classic blues song and, like the best cover songs, transformed it enough to hold some of the classic blues sounds without making it overt and merged it with some of their rock core. Most popular music lovers need no introduction to this legendary band, but just in case, the band was the pinnacle in rock music of the late 60’s and the entirety of the 70’s. The group consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham — all legends in their own right. It is nearly impossible to come across a list of the best bands in history without running into the music of Led Zeppelin, which is precisely why I ended this list with them — always leave the best for last.
Other suggestions: “Ramble On,” “Black Dog,” “Kashmir”
There you go. Fifty seven songs, four hours and one minute of music represented in the list above (aside from the Alexisonfire). I love suggestions or comments on the music selections so feel free to let me know what I should look for in the future. Go forth and make music!